How Breadfruit Arrived in the Caribbean
British planters in the Caribbean during the slave driven sugar days were interested in finding low-cost high-energy foods to feed their slaves. When captain James Cook sailed to Tahiti in 1769 on the famous ship “Endeavour” one of his officers, Sir Joseph Banks, realized that breadfruit which turns out to be one of the highest-yielding food plants in the world, would serve this purpose well.
In 1887, Banks had Captain William Bligh commissioned to sail to Tahiti on the ship “Bounty” and bring breadfruit to the Caribbean. Bligh collected a thousand small potted trees for the voyage. It was a voyage that never took place, however, as the crew mutinied and cast off Captain Bligh and his loyal officers in a longboat on the high seas. Bligh and company miraculously survived and landed on East Timor some 11,000 miles away in 1789.
In 1791, Bligh made a second attempt to bring breadfruit to the Caribbean and this time he was successful delivering breadfruit slips to planters on St. Vincent and Jamaica.
Late in the afternoon yesterday, I took a walk on the Lind Point Trail. It looked like a good day for sunset photos and it was. It has been raining lately so all the trees and plants were green and lush. I walked down to the beach at Salomon and over to the Lind Point Battery Overlook and was able to get some pretty nice photos.
The bad news was the mosquitoes. They were fierce. The day before I battled them at Maho Bay after a late afternoon swim and they were bad, but this was something else. A friendly couple came while I was photographing and offered me some mosquito repellent, which I gladly accepted, but I was afraid to put my camera down for fear that the mosquito dem would carry it off.
The gauge of St. John economic strength that I favor most are my book sales to the Westin timeshare people. It seems that every time they sell a timeshare, they give away a package of stuff as a present to the buyer, one item of which is a St. John Beach Guide, and sales to the Westin are way up. When I go there to deliver books the desks are full of salespeople and potential buyers. You can feel the excitement in the air. When I ask anyone how it’s going, they smile and say, “good.”
Let’s face it. St. John is a special place. There’s nothing quite like it in the Caribbean, so we ought to be doing well. Let’s hope I’m right.
The passage between Whistling Cay and Mary Point on St. John is called the Fungi Passage. Virgin Islands National Park Ranger Denise George once offered to tell me the origin of the name. She said that no matter how hard the wind blows, how big the ground sea or how strong the tide, the Fungi Passage is always calm. She also explained that fungi is a Virgin Islands staple dish made from okra and cornmeal, often served with fish, like in “fish ‘n’ fungi.”
“In the Virgin Islands,” Denise said, “a good fungi, like the waters in the Fungi Passage, is always very smooth.”
Denise likes to make stories and this one is a good one so lets just say that maybe she’s right.
The island just to the north of the Fungi Passage is Great Thatch one of the British Virgin Islands and the passage between it and St. John is called the Narrows. In the photograph you can see the opening into that stretch of water notorious for a strong winds and currents.
The big island further to the north is Jost Van Dyke, also in the British Virgin Islands. The bay on the east is the main town, Great Harbor and the one on the west behind the four masted schooner under full sail is White Bay.
The photograph was taken from the overlook on Centerline Road at about 9:00 AM on Sunday.
Please join us this Thursday night at The Marketplace in Cruz Bay for a FREE FILM about the late Haitian radio broadcaster, Jean Léopold Dominique. In this important documentary by director Jonathan Demme, Dominique is remembered as a human rights activist, freedom fighter and national hero.
Today, almost ten years after his still-unsolved assassination, Dominique continues to inspire the battle for liberty and democracy in Haiti.
On Thursday I hiked the Camelberg Trail, an old Danish Road that had recently been rediscovered and then made passable to some degree or other.
My goal was to get photographs of the trail’s two highlights, a ruin, previously lost in the bush, and what had been described to me as “a beautiful old stone dam.”
When I reached the part of the trail that I was supposed to navigate in order to come upon these highlights, I became discouraged due to the lack of a discernible path and by the rain that had begun to fall. Little did I know that when I made the decision to give it up and to return to the top of the trailhead on Centerline Road and to my dry, warm parked car, I was standing no more than ten yards from the modest ruins. I realized this upon returning home while I pored over my maps.
I resolved to return to the trail the next day and take my photographs.
Finding the ruins was easy this time, but as the hiker who turned me on to the trail had already told me regarding the ruins: “they’re not much, but they’re there.”
After photographing the not so impressive ruins, I set out on the “track,” which was to lead me to the “beautiful old stone dam.”
Previously I had used the word “passable” to describe the degree of difficulty presented by the Camelberg Trail. Perhaps I spoke too soon or at least too optimistically. I once again became discouraged after a few minutes spent extricating myself out of a tangle of stickery bromiliads, which I had encountered in the forest after losing the “trail,” marked from time to time by ribbons tied to the trees, that I had been following.
After a few more little trail-related mishaps I found myself once again abandoning my quest to find the “beautiful old stone dam,” which in my mind had now become the “damn dam,” at least for the time being.
Yesterday I resumed my search for the damned dam, more determined than ever to get my photos. This time, however, I followed a new route in order to access the damn dam. This was a far more gentlemanly way to get there, and one that I was confident would result in success. The new route was the L’Esperance Road, a veritable superhighway when compared to the Camelberg access.
The L’Esperance Road
My plan was to hike the L’Esperance Trail as far as its first intersection with the Camelberg Trail and then either follow that track up to the dam or, if that failed, continue on to the gut and scramble up the gut until I reached the dam.
I arrived at the L’Esperance Trailhead at about 3:00 in the afternoon. There were five vehicles parked there and I was struck by the realization of how popular this once hardly known track had become.
And no wonder, this is a really beautiful hike, something you realize right from the start of the trail where the road descends following the lush Fish Bay Gut. It’s an easy, comfortable walk (at least downhill) with beautiful foliage and rock formations accompanied by the sounds of songbirds and (at times) water trickling in the gut.
Yesterday a full-sized buck stood on the trail just about 20 yards away, staring at me for an instant or two, before gracefully bounding off into the safety of the forest. Another time I saw a wild boar in that same area.
Just about a tenth of a mile from the trailhead, you’ll come an old stone bridge leading to the ruins of the recently cleared L’Esperance Estate. About a mile further on there are two short spurs leading to Estate Seiban also cleared by volunteers. Seiban is the location of St. John’s only Baobob tree that at one time was so lost in the bush that many disputed its very existence.
I could go on and on about this trail. There’s a beautiful bay rum forest, an old daub and wattle cottage full of old bottles, the ruins of Estate Mahlendahl, as well as access to the Reef Bay Trail, the Great Seiban and the Camelberg trails.
But it wasn’t always like it is now. After Hurricane Marilyn struck in 1995, fallen trees became covered with catch and keep, and as more and more scrub grew up, the road was rendered just about impassable.
Along came the Trail Bandit and groups of concerned hikers who spent years clearing the road little by little. Of course there was resistance from those that oppose trail improvement, but the hikers prevailed. In 2007, volunteers, this time park approved, did some trail maintenance and the L’Esperance Road was accepted as “a valuable addition to the VINP hiking trail system.”
More recently, both Seiban and L’Esperance were cleared by Jeff Chabot and volunteers from the Appalachian Mountain Club in conjunction with the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park and the VINP.
Now the trail is a delight to all and the opposition’s nightmares of wholesale abuse of the land never materialized.
And the Damn Dam?
This was supposed to be an article about the dam on the Camelberg Trail and so it will be.
Remember, my previous attempts had been frustrated by a rainstorm and a lack of commitment that allowed me to be scared off by a tangle of bromiliads and the scratches and bruises caused by not paying enough attention in an inhospitable environment. Add to this the verbal attacks launched against me for having revealed in my blog the existence of a now passable Camelberg Trail and this DAMN DAM was starting to cause me some grief.
Between the two rough tracks leading from the ruins on the Camelberg Trail to the L’Esperance Trail, there is a gut where the dam is located.
I took the easy way out. Combining an enjoyable hike down the L’Esperance Road with a short scramble up that same gut, I easily reached the old stone dam and took my photos.
Although I had come this way in order to photograph a damn stone dam on the Camelberg Road, I returned with, not only some fairly decent photos of said damn dam, but also, a renewed appreciation for the L’Esperance Trail and to those whose selfless dedication and hard work have enabled so many to enjoy the beauty of St. John and hopefully to walk away with an understanding of its unique natural environment.
Here’s another in the series of newly cleared overlooks, the product of the hard work done by Jeff Chabot and his trail clearing volunteers. This one is the popular Lind Point Battery Overlook on the Lind Point Trail.
As promised here are some more photos of the overlooks recently cleared by Jeff Chabot and his crew of intrepid volunteers. From those of us who hike the trails of St. John:
The Caneel Hill Bench
Hikers following the Caneel Hill Trail beginning from the National Park Visitors Center in Cruz Bay or from the Caneel Hill Spur will arrive at a wooden bench just before they reach the summit of Caneel Hill. There is now a view from this very welcomed resting spot that at least for the view to the north goes, rivals the view from the viewing tower at the summit. This thanks to the hard work and dedication of the trail crew from the Appalachian Mountain Club.
All about St John in the beautiful US Virgin Islands (USVI) American Paradise